9… “Don’t weep on such a day as this! For today is a sacred day before the LORD your God.” All the people had been weeping as they listened to the words of the law. 10 And Nehemiah continued, “Go and celebrate with a feast of choice foods and sweet drinks, and share gifts of food with people who have nothing prepared. This is a sacred day before our Lord. Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the LORD is your strength!”
These people had been through a lot. Not only did they endure the difficulties of rebuilding an entire wall around Jerusalem, to defending each other from attacks of their enemies, giving up land and resources to complete the project, now they heard the Law of God read to them and they were conviced of their sins. Nehi and the other priests encouraged them to celebrate because they now understood the scriptures. They were forgiven and God was restoring their city! They needed to throw a feast and include everyone. What really struck me in this chapter is in verses 5 & 6:
5 Ezra stood on the platform in full view of all the people. When they saw him open the book, they all rose to their feet. 6 Then Ezra praised the LORD, the great God, and all the people chanted, “Amen! Amen!” as they lifted their hands toward heaven. Then they bowed down and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground.
When they saw the book opened, they all rose to their feet in reverence. Ezra praised God and all the people began chanting, “Amen! Amen!” and they lifted their hands toward heaven. They bowed and worshiped the Lord. And, this was all because the book had been opened up.
Contrast that with a typical church service you attend today. In many churches I’ve been to, there are no Bibles to be found – not in the pews (or folding chairs) not available in the lobby. Few even bring their Bibles with them any more, perhaps because the verses are now all conveniently displayed on a PowerPoint slide, or perhaps because the person speaking rarely even mentions the Bible in their sermon of “personal reflection” or their emotional pep rally.
Look at the response of the people. Just the opening of the book caused them to raise to their feet and worship and raise their hands. Do you see anyone manipulating their emotions, playing music louder and louder, shouting at them to chant, telling them to raise their hands, pressuring them to respond? NO!!!
They simply respond because they honor God and His Law.
If you’re not in a church where the man in charge honors the Word of God and presents God’s Word to the people, rather than their own opinions or clever 3-point sermons, take a close look at the reverence that Ezra and Nehi (and the priests present that day) have for even the opening of the Book. If your congregation has to be hyped up and screamed at week after week, take a close look at these people who simply respond when the Book is even opened up.
Take a look at third world countries where they can’t simply go down to the Christian book store and pick up a Bible. People are dying (literally) to have a copy.
I am deeply effected today by what God has shown me in this chapter. I am excited about what He’s telling me about His Word and the importance of our attitude and reverence toward it.
Thank You, Lord, for what You’re teaching me through the daily reading of Your Word. Forgive me for how I’ve taken Your Word for granted. It is Your mouth to my ears. Thank You for Your Word. Thank You for all the sacrifice and the lives that have been lost to bring it to me. Teach me to have respect for Your Holy Word, just as these did in Nehemiah 8. -amen